Teatro Real 2019-20 Review: La Traviata, Cast B
Lisette Oropesa Shines Amidst Questionable CastBy Mauricio Villa
(Credit: Javier del Real)
This review is for the performance on July 25, 2020.
One of the unique features of the Teatro Real de Madrid’s “Traviata” was the fact that the company provided audiences with a chance to see four different sopranos perform the iconic title role in close proximity to one another. While we have already looked at Marina Rebeka’s success in the role at the start of the run, we will shift our focus to arguably the most anticipated interpreter to take on this production.
Cuban-American soprano Lisette Oropesa participated in four performances of “La Traviata” at the Teatro Real de Madrid at the end of July, enjoying a rotund success. She is a darling of the Spanish audience, having had massive success over the last few years, particularly with a recent “Lucia di Lammermoor” production.
This run of performances proved no different with the soprano consolidating her status with Madrid’s public as she wound up being the only lead singer of the four casts to take a bow after “sempre libera” at the insistence of the public; she also gave an encore of “Addio del passato” in her last performance.
An Incomplete Success
Oropesa, who has a dark Lirico-leggera voice completely even throughout her whole register, offered a vocal display of pyrotechnics, soaring pianissimi, and strong ringing high notes that conquered the devilish writing of the first act.
From her very first phrase: “Flora, amici…” which is written between low C sharp and high G sharp, she showed her control in the medium and low register. But it was during her duet with Alfredo “Di quel amor” and in her aria and cabaletta “Ah! forse lui…Sempre libera” where her voice truly shined with exquisite staccato high notes, roulades, fast scales, several sustained pianissimo high B flats. This was most present during the cadenza of her aria or the several “Gioir” during the cabaletta. She sustained the high Cs and high D flats of the Cabaletta, coronating the end with the popular interpolated high E flat that generated mass delirium from the audience.
“Violetta” needs a very specific voice to cover the whole range and dramatic aspects of the role. While Oropesa was in her comfort zone throughout Act one, she lacked the vocal dramatism needed to sustain Act two. Although her mezza voce contributes to a beautiful interpretation of “Dite alla giovine,” she does not have yet the vocal force for “morro la mia memoria” nor the vocal projection to sustain the centrally written tessitura. Her B flat on “Amami Alfredo” was overpowered by the forte orchestra. And as sparkling and resolute as she appears in Act one, she seemed more worried about technique and notes in the second act, her interpretation lacking in musical and dramatic variety.
She is a very clever actress, so she knows how to be on stage, but she somehow lacked the emotional heft to deliver the fully deliver the powerful arc of Violetta in this second Act. Again “Alfredo, Alfredo…” in the second scene of act two was sung with an exquisite mezza voce, but her voice was rarely heard during the final concertante when the chorus and orchestra were at their strongest.
But everything changed in Act three. Oropesa really knows how to portray the dying heroine, the sickness and sorrow present in every line she sang. And although she often did not sing long phrases in a single fiato, breaking the legato, her eternal floating pianissimi A naturals of the aria “Addio del pasato” drove the audience crazy (in the performance under review, Oropesa decided to stay in character during the long ovation and continued).
“Parigi o cara” and the final death scene were truly emotional and powerful. Despite an underwhelming second act, there is no doubt that Oropesa delivered a successful performance and was the most rewarded and applauded Violetta among the several casts in Madrid. And it wasn’t even close.
Not Even Close
Speaking of not even close, the rest of the cast was not to the high standards of the soprano.
Italian tenor Ivan Magri, who played Alfredo, possesses a harsh timbre and a very marked vibrato that shadowed his legato and the triplets of the “brindisi.” His tendency to sing forte most of the time left no space for coloring the phrases during the love duet “Un di, felice…” As such, they sounded more menacing than amorous.
His voice sounded hard in his aria “De miei bollenti spiriti” with strangled notes, especially in the passagio zone. He has a tendency to attack notes with appoggiatura, further tarnishing the vocal line. But Magri’s trademark is his high notes, so he ended up the cabaletta “Oh mio rimorso” with a long sonorous and well-supported high C. His voice would shine more in higher roles, but the tessitura of Alfredo is centrally written with occasional ascensions to A flats and naturals.
He was more convincing during the duet “Parigi o cara” showing some tenderness and making a diminuendo on the A flat of “Tutto il future.” The absence of stage direction left him somewhat stranded on stage and he resorted to cliché poses and movements that lacked a substantial characterization of the role.
Nicola Alaimo portrayed Germont with dignity and charisma. His voice has a dark quality and a strong presence. But when singing above D, his sounds are swallowed and lose sonority. This proves a major issue in a role that is constantly singing around F. His difficulties were most evident during his duet with Oropesa in Act two, and undercut the climax of his aria “Di Provenza” with lines written constantly on F, including “Ma se al fin to trovo ancor.” The several ascensions to G flat sounded undersized and distant.
Alaimo saved the performance with his strong presence and stagecraft to create a believable characterization of the role, proving his long experience singing Alfredo’s father.